Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Laziness is the mother of efficiency

In my last post, I briefly mentioned I don't do much in the way of test strips. I don't like doing them as it takes time, and more importantly, wastes paper, and quite frankly, the less effort I have to make the better. And at a buck a pop for a sheet of 8x10, (yes, Foma is expensive, but gorgeous), I hate wasting paper.

Instead, I make work prints, one sheet per negative, without bothering with a test strip at all. How do I do that? Well, I'm no darkroom guru, reading my negative and knowing just what exposure it will print at. You need to spend a few years slaving away in a commercial lab, day in and day out, making prints, to get to that stage. For us amateurs, there is an easier way, an enlarging meter.

I have this nifty gadget from Darkroom Automation, which allows me to do wonderful things like profile my paper versus my negatives and stuff, works as an enlarging meter and a densitometer, but I'm lazy. I use it to simply give me a base exposure which allows me to pop out a work print in one go. I measure the darkest tone, which gives a value in stops. I compare that to my base negative (one I've printed with a full range of tones and a known exposure time and value for my paper) and calculate the difference in exposure. Using that, I can pop out a work print, usually with a reasonable exposure (at least as a starting point to fine tune from) with just one print. If I want to also factor in contrast control and dial in the right amount of magenta, I can also measure the lightest tone, and with the difference between the two, (compared to my base neg/print which I measure all against) I can dial in the contrast too.

It does involve using a calculator as I might need .67 of a stop less exposure, but I'd rather use a little time than waste paper, and do things only once. Thus, other than determining that first exposure for my baseline negative, which I do test strip, to get a baseline exposure, I don't bother with test strips at all. Unless of course, some bastard at the darkroom changes the enlarger bulb on me. At which point, I usually have to do it again. Now, bear in mind, I am using the same enlarger all the time, and if you use more than one, you would need to do a test with each one to get your baseline exposure for each.

I'm all for making your life simpler with handy gadgets that actually work.

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